Google continues to prioritize artificial intelligence and machine learning, and its search engine has become much more sophisticated. It’s providing users with more relevant and personalized results. While the technological advancements are cutting-edge and interesting, brands should remain mindful of the human side and how users react to the shifts.
These changes to the algorithms and SERPs are not only changing the user experience but also transforming their search behaviors. Once you understand how it works, you can allow user behaviors to guide how your business adapts and how it will generally affect SEO.
Shaping the Experience with RankBrain and Hummingbird
Google constantly improves its search algorithm to provide users with the best possible experience. In recent years, two major updates have been made that are particularly relevant to SEO: RankBrain and Hummingbird. Here’s a closer look at how these updates are shaping the user search experience:
RankBrain is Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence system that sorts through results to provide the most relevant answer to a user’s query. It is constantly learning and adjusting itself based on new data. This means that SEO strategies that worked previously may not work as well now, and what works well now may need to be shifted again in the future.
Hummingbird is an update to Google’s search algorithm designed to better understand the user’s intent. It looks at the whole query, rather than just individual keywords, to try and provide more relevant results. This has led to a shift in focus for SEO from keyword optimization to creating content that answers users’ questions.
Both RankBrain and Hummingbird are important factors in shaping the user search experience and making it possible for Google to provide highly accurate and personalized results for every user query. As Google continues evolving its SERPs, it’s important for SEOs to keep up with the latest changes to ensure their strategies are effective.
What It Means For Content Optimization
The goal of content optimization is still to make sure your content is easily found and consumed by your target audience. With Google’s new search features, that means creating content that is:
- Specifically relevant to the user’s query: Google’s new search features are designed to provide users with the most relevant results possible. That means your content must be closely aligned with what users are searching for. This free Google Keyword Planner can point you in the right direction.
- High quality: To rank highly in Google’s new search results, your blogs and web page content must be of the highest quality. That means it must be well-written, accurate, informative, and interesting. If you’re considering leveraging the efficiency of AI-generated content, it really needs a creative human touch. You can’t just churn out content; it’s essential to show your site is truly an authority on the query topics.
- Easy to find: Indexing and crawlability are of critical importance so that the crawlers can quickly find the content Google is looking for and confirm its accuracy. Your website must be properly optimized for SEO behind the scenes, not just on-page. Additionally, your content should be consistently shared on social media and across other websites.
- Measuring success: Metrics like keyword rankings and traffic numbers are frequently used to gauge whether our content was successful. However, Google is now considering factors like click-through rate (CTR) and dwell time when determining whether a piece of content is relevant and useful for users (and whether it should be used more or less in future results).
By creating high-quality, relevant content that is easy for Google to find and index, you can ensure that more people will see your content and generate more leads and sales for your business.
Consider Inaccuracy and Bias
There are a few significant challenges with inaccuracy and bias within the results of AI search.
AI search engines cannot always entirely or accurately answer the user’s query entirely or accurately. This is partly because the human users may not always use the best keywords in the search queries. The other part is simply that the results rely on keyword matching, which can be limited by available resources.
Additionally, there are many types of biases that occur in machine learning systems. The bottom line here is that if the algorithms learn from the data that they are given—and that data is biased—the search results may also be biased.
Tools like RankBrain and Hummingbird are being used to help overcome these issues. Of course, the efforts to improve accuracy and bias will mean ongoing changes and testing of new protocols. It’s just another reason why it’s critical for brands to keep up with the changes as they occur to prevent falling behind.
Altering User Habits and Search Behaviors
In the past, Google often showed users a long list of results that were only loosely related to their query. Now, users are provided with a shorter list of results much more closely related to their needs. When users have a good idea of what they’re looking for, Google will be a great place to get fast, useful content.
However, when users are unsure of what they need or are unfamiliar with the subject matter, we may see a trend toward asking AI chatbots instead. The results in these queries tend to be provided conversationally, combining comprehensive information from multiple sources. Users who need to understand a new concept or get step-by-step instructions with explanations will likely turn here.
Another major shift we are seeing is an increase in voice search queries. As people become increasingly comfortable talking to their devices, they are more likely to use their voices as an easier way of finding what they need. Businesses and website owners must optimize their content for voice search by using long-tail keywords and natural language phrasing.
Finally, users are becoming more concerned with privacy and security when searching online. It’s leading to a rise in anonymous search engines that don’t store personal data or track user habits. These sites operate with the intention of providing peace of mind for users conducting online searches.
Google’s recent soft launch of SGE (Search Generative Experience) is helping them explore ways to combine typical search with conversational AI results. Selected users across the U.S. are offered the opportunity to test this new feature, and Google is diligently collecting data on the user experiences that will guide the next wave of adaptations.
By leveraging machine learning and natural language processing technologies, AI-powered search engines have been a game changer for how we access information online. SGE further elevates that experience for many and may be rolled out universally soon.
With its ever-evolving capabilities, Google will continue to provide users with an improved experience as they navigate the internet. It’s a lot to keep up with, though. You can leverage The Ultimate SEO Strategy Template (regularly updated as Google evolves) or leverage our team’s expertise with HOTH X for fully managed services.
Max Gomez Montejo is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Next Net Media, a leading holding company specializing in digital marketing, SEO, and AI, including The HOTH, a global leader in SEO services. Leveraging his expertise in data-driven decision-making, Max consistently crafts innovative marketing strategies that connect SMBs, agencies, and enterprise clients, reshaping their marketing playbook.
Photo courtesy: Google